The inaugural season of the Alliance of American Football is off and running and its first games didn’t disappoint. If I ever questioned if this would be too much football in my life, that question was answered tonight – oh hell no!
The first two games of the season were the San Diego Fleet at the San Antonio Commanders, and the Atlanta Legends at the Orlando Apollos. I watched the Legends and Apollos battle it out in a fun game.
Admittedly, the quality of play surpassed my expectations. I would rate it as better than college football but not as great as the NFL – which makes sense, considering the league views themselves as a developmental system for the NFL.
The action was faster-paced than the NFL, with only sporadic, 30-second ad spots.
The game was more interactive, with each team mic’d up for sound. We heard Apollos Head Coach Steve Spurrier curmudgeonly asking his team on the sidelines who was called for a penalty. We watched as replay official Terri Valenti talked through her decision on a challenged catch, only to reverse her own decision.
The first quarter was all Atlanta, but they failed to really maximize their opportunities, leading 3-0 at the end of the quarter. The game changed drastically over the course of the next three quarters, as Orlando scored 40 straight points after being down 6-0.
Legends quarterback Matt Simms was under pressure for most of the game and looked skittish and indecisive in the pocket. He threw no touchdowns and was intercepted twice, including a pick six. Simms was taken out of the game in the fourth quarter and replaced by Aaron Murray, who was also intercepted to close out a 40-6 victory for the Orlando Apollos.
The play calling was a Steve Spurrier masterclass performance. The Legends were outcoached and outplayed by a much better team. The Apollos defense was exceptional, creating four turnovers and holding the Legends to six points. Their offense was explosive, driving down the field at will in both the running and passing game.
Running back Akeem Hunt and linebacker Terrence Garvin will both be players on the Apollos to watch going forward, on what appears to be a very good Orlando team.